Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Intellectual Property...and Passion

This Autumn, I had the pleasure of visiting a digital photography class at Fort Ann Central School to discuss copyright, plagiarism and fair use, particularly in regard to digital images. I shared some resources with the students, then told them the story of educator Alec Couros's experience with  the uncredited use of one of his original photos.

A few months later, I was blindsided by an even more egregious example of copyright violation.

As an amateur, but passionate, photographer, I take pleasure in sharing my original captures with others, via Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking venues. Except for the photos of family members, I usually attach a Creative Commons license to my work, allowing others to use individual shots with attribution.

If you are a Flickr user, you probably know that there is a mail option on the site, accessed by hovering over your icon in the top right corner of the site. I am occasionally contacted, via this mailbox, by people or organizations who wish to use my content.

"Flickr mail" by dmcordell http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmcordell/11670679986/

On 12/06/13, I opened this message:

"Stolen Picture" by dmcordell http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmcordell/11670043525/

To backtrack just a bit... on September 13, one of my photos, There Is A Crack In Everything, was selected for Flickr Explore. This is quite an honor, and means that an image gets an amazing number of views (6,468 as of this moment). The "thief" mentioned in the above email had posted my photograph in his/her photostream with no attribution (evidently an ongoing practice for him/her, since others have contacted me about their photos also being stolen).

Fortunately, Flickr has a mechanism for dealing with these types of issues.

After clicking into "Report Abuse" and "Someone is posting photos that I have taken in their Flickr account," I was redirected to the Yahoo page dealing with Copyright and Intellectual Property. I followed the procedure indicated, and within a few hours, the photo was removed from the offending site. The poster had tried to disguise the theft by changing the date of the photo, but since Flickr itself had chosen the image from my photostream, such a lame tactic was doomed to failure.

"Copyright infringement" by dmcordell http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmcordell/11670526275/

I sincerely thank the person who alerted me to this blatant theft of my original work. Monetarily, there was little or nothing at stake. But when it's your passion that is trampled upon and discounted, strong action is indicated.

“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.” -Joss Whedon